There are two “BIG boys—if you can even call them that” sitting at the top of the climbing wall, oblivious to the real children who want to climb it. Quan tells Justyce that they look creepy, but Justyce insists this is the best spot from which to chaperone Gabe’s birthday party. Quan shakes his head. He’s shocked that Justyce chose to spend his spring break here, instead of on a beach somewhere. Justyce says he’s broke, though Quan insists that’s just a mindset. They go quiet when Justyce says that Quan sounds like Martel.
When Stone describes Quan and Justyce as “BIG boys” who, perhaps, aren’t boys anymore, she suggests that Quan and Justyce have reached the point of being young men. By now, they’re both over the age of 18—so they’re both legally adults. But even if they’re on the cusp of adulthood, they still hold onto as much of their childhood as they can. They may be chaperoning Gabe’s party, but it’s also possible that they still enjoy the playground like a child might.
Quan knows he shouldn’t ask, but he asks if Justyce has seen him recently. Justyce nods. He was at Martel’s the other day to help DeMarcus with an essay, and Jared and Brad took the opportunity to joke like brothers. Quan sighs. Months ago, Justyce shared the story behind the Exactum notice and the fact that Doc is now tutoring the gang members. Justyce works for the tutoring service without pay—but Quan gets paid better than he thinks he should. But he’s learning from Doc that he shouldn’t undervalue his skillset. Doc also made Quan open up a checking account on his 18th birthday. Now, Quan mails checks to Martel every few weeks to pay off his debt, but Martel hasn’t cashed any of them.
Doc helps Quan secure a checking account, which gives Quan more power over his life and his future than he’s ever had before. Now he has the opportunity to save and pay back his debts. However, it’s significant that Martel isn’t cashing any of Quan’s checks. This may be how Martel is showing Quan support for his new life path. Martel surely knows that he could keep Quan under his thumb for years by demanding that Quan repay what’s surely a huge amount of money. But by seemingly allowing Quan to not pay up, Martel quietly gives Quan the ability to live his life and keep the money for himself.
Quan asks if the guys in Black Jihad are doing well, and Justyce says they are. Trey is going to be a dad soon, and he’s over the moon about it. Quan would give anything to see Trey that happy and asks Justyce to pass on his congratulations.
Loyal to the core, Quan desperately wants his old friends to be happy and fulfilled. Hearing that Trey is expecting his first child offers hope that Trey will be able to do better with his own son than his dad or Quan’s Daddy did, thereby ending a cycle of broken families.
Justyce changes the subject and asks how Quan is doing. Quan smiles. It’s nice to have Justyce around. He says the suburbs are hard to get used to. It’s quiet, and parks close at 7 p.m. Right after his release, Quan spent a while living with Doc and his husband. This gave him a good amount of time to adjust to his newfound freedom, and it was great seeing two successful Black men madly in love. It was helpful when later, Quan ran into Liberty. He didn’t bat an eye when he asked her out and she said she had a girlfriend.
Doc once again showed Quan how much he cared by opening his home to him after Quan was released. In addition, Doc and his husband showed Quan that it’s possible for Black men to be successful and happy. Just as Justyce looked at Attorney Baldwin as an example of what he can be, Quan now sees that it’s possible that he too can one day find success and happiness as a young Black man.
Quan asks how Justyce and SJ are doing. They’re doing well. Quan admits he’d love to find someone like Liberty, and Justyce laughs and shares that Jared ran into Liberty at a restaurant. She chewed him out for trying to flirt with her. Quan bursts into laughter, but Justyce says that Jared reverts to being an entitled, rich white boy sometimes.
Jared’s relapse reads as comic relief more than anything else, but it does make the case that people with privilege must constantly work to do better. It’s not enough to treat people respectfully or say the right thing sometimes—it’s a constant process of improvement.
The boys, who are really young men now, fall silent. The kids below snottily ask them to move, so Justyce and Quan jump down. Watching Gabe climb, Quan marvels that Gabe is 11—two years older than when Quan and Justyce met. Justyce asks if Quan remembers the rocket ship, which Quan insists is a silly question. When Justyce asks if Quan misses it, Quan thinks for a minute. He looks around at the clean park, at Mama laughing, and at Dasia on the swings with a boy. Gabe is having a great birthday, and Quan has his best friend with him. Daddy’s the only one missing, but they write weekly, and Quan has visited him in prison. Quan says he doesn’t miss it. He has everything he needs here. In an undated letter, Quan thanks Justyce for everything.
The book drives home that Quan and Justyce are really young men when Quan says he doesn’t miss the rocket ship. The rocket ship represented Quan’s need to run away and escape in order to find happiness. But now, when he looks around, he sees that he is happy. His family is on the road to recovery, he has an amazing friend in Justyce, and he’s free of the constricting loyalty that Black Jihad required. In all ways, Quan has escaped the poverty and the violence that kept him from success as a child, driving home the novel’s assertion that it’s impossible to succeed if a person doesn’t have safety and security at home.